Con Prep: Top Tech Tips for Your Next Convention
Con Prep is a new series of blog pieces providing tips, suggestions and other ideas as to help you prepare for convention season.
This piece was written by Guest Contributor Cassie Tolhurst.
Convention season is coming, and along with it, people dressed as Daenerys, Arya, and Sansa. You’ll see other characters too—some from galaxies far, far away or from universes yet unknown to the common person. Others descend from on high, ascend from down low, or step out of cities somehow twistedly familiar. You, as the duly appointed representative of planet Earth, recognize them all and herald their arrival at comic conventions every fall.
Regardless of where the characters usually dwell, their on-screen or in-book depictions claim an ability you don’t: immunity to the need for connectivity. Fortunately, the eleven tech tips listed here can grant you that power. Some you already know from attending gaming or comic book conventions in the past. Others will provide practical inspiration for the upcoming convention season.
- Research the Con and the Surrounding Area
While you spend most your hours at a con, you’ll eventually leave. You’ll likely tire of convention food and require sleep and a change of clothes. Plus, if you stay in the city after the con, you might want to explore what the area has to offer. Most cities hosting conventions tend to boast an array of fun activities, from food fairs and live music festivals to tourist stops and dances.
Also, remember to decide on lodging well in advance of the con. If you want something luxurious, like Final Fantasy’s Galdin Quay, pick accommodations close to the convention center. The more frugal traveler may want to consider hotels farther away from the convention center or explore Airbnb and ridesharing options.
- Check Out the Convention App
Internet connectivity generally is hit or miss at conventions because of the large space and number of people connecting to Wi-Fi. Minimize the frustration by checking out the convention’s app before entering any vaunted halls. The best way to find your convention’s app is to search their name in the app store on your phone or by checking their website, ex: San Diego Comic-Con. Not all conventions have apps dedicated to their event, so you can also find the schedule on their website or in a booklet at the convention. Jot down your must-see panels and events along with alternate choices. Other digital resources for convention information is the Guidebook app or Eventbrite’s conference planning website; both provide information on events during the convention and around the city. Lines will be long, and you may not always get into your premier panel choice. Set a schedule, but frame it tentatively and be ready to change your plans on the fly.
- Never Leave Home without a Charger or Power Pack
Your phone and other devices will die at any convention because of how much time you’ll spend sharing social media updates, taking pictures, and trying to connect to the convention hall’s Wi-Fi. Accept your fate now, and pursue the real-world version of Final Fantasy’s Phoenix Down: portable chargers and power packs. An individual charger resurrects a single device, while a power pack restores life to your entire cache of tech.
- Bring a Bag
Conventions mean trinkets, and typically a lot of them. Come prepared with a bag for not only your essentials but also items gathered from various vendors. Many convention goers have expressed a fondness for ThinkGeek’s Bag of Holding – Con-Survival Edition.
And if you want to cosplay, cosplay smart. Consider dressing as a character who already carries a bag—Lara Croft with her backpack of seemingly never-ending ammunition comes to mind—or add an accessory to your character. Black Widow and Hela carry things around somehow, although Hela probably commands a servant or minion to do the work for her.
- Stay Hydrated
If con goers agree on anything aside from bringing up backup batteries for your devices and wearing comfortable shoes, it’s staying hydrated. No person lives on Mountain Dew or Monster alone, so drink water frequently during your time at a convention. WaterIn, an app available on iOS and Android, is a great way to track your daily water intake and make sure you don’t get dehydrated when you should be prepping for your next photo op. Always bring a refillable water bottle with you, and don’t be afraid to ask the convention staff where the nearest water fountain is.
- Find Your Friends
You will lose your friends in the crowds. Keep track of each other with an app like Find My Friends, for iOS and Android. It’s always easier to pursue a friend’s location dot on your phone than figuring out which Wi-Fi spot or charging station they disappeared to. A low-tech but effective option is to create a designated meeting spot for your group incase you get separated from your friends and family. Also don’t forget to write down their contact information so you can reach them even if you lose your phone or it looses battery. Geek Girl Con also has special children’s passes that have an area for parents to write down their contact information just in case they get lost.
- Find Your Phone
You hope it won’t happen, but your phone might go missing in the hustle and bustle of autograph signings, panels, activities, and photo ops. However, you can make your phone easy to find by enabling Find My iPhone or Find My Device before the con. With the flip of a switch, you’ll have one less thing to worry about. If you’re bringing other connected devices to the convention, turn on their locator options, too.
- Use a Messaging App
In addition to using Find My Friends, consider communicating with your pals through a messaging app like FireChat, Slack, WhatsApp, GroupMe, or Messenger. These tools help you stay in touch if you’re going to separate panels or if you just spotted Gal Gadot or Daisy Ridley in a gallery hall. FireChat can be especially helpful since it doesn’t require Internet connection or data service to send messages.
- Manage Your Data Rates
As mentioned above, you’ll likely spend a lot of time posting updates and checking the web during a con—and that will devour your phone’s data. Conserve your data and avoid an expensive post-con bill with a Wi-Fi hotspot. You can even share the Wi-Fi with your friends so they can stay connected online.
And if you intend to livestream the con or to stream games or movies at your hotel, you’ll want an Internet connection that provides the necessary bandwidth. If your accommodation doesn’t provide an impressive speed, use a dedicated Wi-Fi hotspot. It could power up your livestream, allowing you to deliver live updates on that long-awaited Joss Whedon panel.
- Bring Along Some Entertainment
You will stand in lines during any convention, sometimes for hours. Bring some entertainment, such as a Nintendo DS and open up StreetPass. You never know whom you might meet via Mii, and you could collect some Play Coins while you’re walking around the convention center.
- Bring Some Paper and a Sharpie
Technology’s great, but it won’t generate an autographed memento for you to take home. Keep a pad of paper and a Sharpie on you at all times so that you can ask for autographs or maybe even give one. You could even make it part of your cosplay outfit. Agent Carter almost certainly carried some traditional tech—paper and a pen—with her.
With the eleven tech tips shared here, you’re more than ready for your next convention, be it Comic-Con International: San Diego or GeekGirlCon in Seattle. All that’s left now is to finish your Luna Lovegood costume and pack your bags.
Cassie Tolhurst is a recent grad, freelance writer, and a wannabe world traveler. Her passions include comics, cosplay, what’s streaming on Netflix, and the latest rides at Disneyland.